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Supercool Electrons


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The microchannel device on a copper sample cell.

The Quantum Dynamics Unit at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University recently made novel findings about a quantum system in which electrons float on the surface of liquid helium.

Credit: Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University

The Quantum Dynamics Unit at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST) in Japan is researching a potential system for quantum computing, using electrons floating on liquid helium.

"It is intrinsically pure and free of defects, which theoretically allows for the creation of perfectly identical qubits (quantum bits)," says Quantum Dynamics Unit director Denis Konstantinov. "Additionally, we can move electrons in this liquid helium system, which is difficult or nearly impossible in other quantum systems."

The researchers built a microscopic channel device containing an electron trap to confine a crystal of a relatively small number of electrons. The crystal would then be moved across the liquid helium surface by altering electrostatic potential of an electrode, with the movement detected by measuring image charges flowing through another electrode.

"We saw no difference between the movement of large electron crystals, on the scale of millions to billions of electrons, and crystals as small as a few thousands of electrons, when theoretically, differences should exist," says OIST's Alexander Badrutdinov.

Konstantinov says the next challenge is to isolate a smaller electron crystal and then a single electron, creating a system that "has the potential to be a pure, scalable system with mobile qubits."

From Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology
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